The Dead Belong Below [Geist: The Sin-Eaters]

Geist: The Sin-Eaters, Open Development

Here’s the latest blog post from Geist developer Travis:

(First of all, I’d like to apologize for the lack of blog posts the last couple of weeks — the whole family was down with a nasty flu. Get your flu shots, people!)

Last time, I asked you to vote between hearing about Reapers or ghosts. Here’s where I confess that that wasn’t entirely a fair question: Reapers, you see, are ghosts. Not chthonic monsters, not inhuman enforcers of the Underworld’s will. Just ghosts.

Just people.

Taking Up the Scythe

So if Reapers are just ghosts, what makes a Reaper? They’d tell you it’s the favor of the Chthonic Gods. They’d tell you they were chosen, marked for greatness, given a holy mission by the never-born lords and ladies of the Underworld. Others would say it’s a craven desire to come out on top no matter the cost, “fuck you, got mine” on a cosmic scale.

Wherever you fall on that spectrum, the fact remains that some ghosts (usually those with plenty of Essence to keep dissolution at bay) don’t see a problem with the state of the afterlife. Would they prefer to be alive? Sure, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Some remember the pain of being so close to the living world but never able to touch it, and think a clean break is the only way to heal. Others were hounded by the unquiet dead in life, and want to enforce the separation of the world of the living and the world of the dead. Still others are simply convinced that there must be a reason for the way things are, and tampering with it is an act of monumental hubris.

A lot of those ghosts become cult leaders, preaching the doctrine of the Chthonic Gods in the River Cities, the Dominions, and itinerant camps throughout the Underworld. Sometimes that’s as far as it goes. But other times, one of these preacher shades finds a mask — buried in the loose soil of a forgotten tunnel, caught up on the banks of a River, or resting on an altar of bone and chalcedony in a temple that wasn’t there yesterday and won’t be there again tomorrow. Those who take up the masks, who wear them in veneration of the Gods Below, are the Reapers.

Beware of Ghosts Bearing Masks

It’s a curious phrase, isn’t it? Ghosts bearing masks. Not wearing them. That’s because, by the time a Reaper has donned her Deathmask, it’s probably too late. The mask provides power, yes, and the freedom to hunt beyond the gates of the Underworld, but more than that, it provides clarity of purpose. A Reaper wearing a Deathmask is stripped to the core of herself, complexity and humanity sandblasted down to a single tenet: the dead belong below. Her Corpus warps into a terrible, inhuman form as it swells to contain the power of the mask. Even without having drunk from one of the Rivers, she becomes the equal of even the most powerful geist. She bursts forth from the Underworld, unhindered by Avernian Gates or the need to stay near Anchors, and stalks her prey, swallowing them whole only to vomit them back up once safely returned to the Underworld. She is the stuff of ghosts’ nightmares, the bogeyman whispered of over Twilight campfires and after krewe religious services.

More dangerous are the Reapers who hunt smarter, not harder. Why hunt down individual ghosts at all when you can slip into a graveyard community looking like any other shade, identify the most susceptible among them, and convince them that the dead belong below? Charismatic Reapers can harvest several ghosts at once, all without ever needing to don their masks.

Strength in Numbers

Threats to the Underworld can become too large for a single Reaper to handle. An unbound geist escapes in search of a body to hide in. A ghost has too many Sin-Eater allies to take alone. When situations like these arise, it’s time to round up a posse and put the problem down for good. Reapers acting in concert aren’t limited to dragging individual ghosts back to the Great Below: they can tear entire chunks out of the world, hurling them down into the Underworld along with all the ghosts (and anyone else, for that matter) in them.

With enough Reapers working together, city blocks, neighborhoods, or even entire districts can be pulled beneath the earth, never to be seen again. Houses and buildings vanish in the blink of an eye. That the living can be caught in this process isn’t a problem: those who don’t die in the initial collapse waste away in the Great Below. Other loose ends tie up on their own. The living rationalize the incident as a sinkhole or a freak accident. People with direct ties to the land quickly sicken and die. A large enough number of Reapers could destroy an entire civilization this way, Descending cities and letting the aftereffect do its work. Whether this has ever actually happened is hotly debated among Sin-Eater historians.

The Chthonic Gods

They don’t exist. You could map every tunnel, plumb every River, comb every book in every Dominion in the Lower Mysteries, and never find the way to Eljudnir or the palaces of the Lords of Xibalba. And what is the measure of a god’s existence if not an actual, physical presence you can go and visit?

They do exist. The dead venerate them, pray to them and sacrifice to them and commit atrocities in their names. Even the living sometimes find their way to the Church of the Gods Below. And what is the measure of a god’s existence if not the impact of its worshippers upon the world?

Next Time

We’ve met the disciples of the Chthonic Gods. Shall we delve deeper into the Underworld they claim to serve, or return to the sunlit lands and learn about the living who are a threat to the Underworld?

  38 comments for “The Dead Belong Below [Geist: The Sin-Eaters]

  1. Vele
    March 15, 2018 at 10:22 am

    This sounds incredibly exciting! These are definitely an interesting group of antagonists for a chronicle. They also sound like they have a kind of synchronicity with Geists, what with them being empowered ghosts.

    As for the next post, I want to learn about the living who are a threat to the underworld-I smell a minor splat.

  2. Stupid Loserman
    March 15, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Deeper into the Underworld. I feel like we’re still missing a piece of the puzzle that makes the work of the Reapers so dreadful, and I’d rather finish one puzzle before beginning another.

  3. Satchel
    March 15, 2018 at 10:41 am

    We have to go deeper — let’s hear more about the Underworld.

  4. Ajf115
    March 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

    It’s a tough pick, but I vote for the Underworld. I love ‘living’ (or, in this case, unliving) places, and the hints re: the Underworld so far have been tantalising to say the lest.

  5. Troy
    March 15, 2018 at 10:44 am

    I’m picturing No-Face from Spirited Away now.

  6. Second Chances
    March 15, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Into the Underworld we go!

  7. LostLight
    March 15, 2018 at 10:58 am

    well, that’s a difficult choice- it feels natural to go down the Underworld, but living antagonists could be interesting. In that case, I vote for the living simply because I assume that the Underworld would win 😛

    Also- it is funny how Reapers has started with a sympathetic view, and ended with “oh my god they are going to kill us all”. Well played, well played.

  8. BigDamnHero
    March 15, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I want to learn about the living who are a threat: the Underworld itself can be a fun surprise for the final book.

  9. wormwood
    March 15, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Underworld, please!

    Also, at first I have to admit I was kind of meh on the ‘Reapers are Ghosts’ concept, but damn if it wasn’t pulled of nicely.

  10. Leliel
    March 15, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I say Underworld; It’s called the Underworld Chronicle and not the Reaper Chronicle for a reason, let’s see it.

    • ThomasM
      March 15, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Agreed. Let’s see how far down this rabitt hole goes.

    • March 15, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      I thought it was called the Chronicle of the Dead.

  11. Gravity's Painbow
    March 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Underworld, please.

  12. Runcible
    March 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Let’s delve deeper into the Underworld!

  13. MrWhisper
    March 15, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Another vote for Underworld.

  14. Gregory Walter
    March 15, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Awesome stuff! <3


  15. kevin mckinney
    March 15, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Underworld No Questions asked.

  16. Arcane
    March 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Darker and Deeper still, to the Underworld we go.

  17. Carl Söderberg
    March 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Going deeper underground! Underworld!

  18. Ryan Spinney
    March 15, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Deeper into the underworld.

  19. Cherubic
    March 15, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Ooh, cults! I love cults as storytelling elements, they’re a ton of fun. Gangs of Reapers and (potentially?) ghosts who believe in their cause sound like they could make for some imposing antagonists for a krewe.

    Both options are interesting as usual but I’ll put my vote in for living threats. Especially if they’re humans, since I think humans are underutilized in supernatural-focused games as foes.

  20. Xiagrey
    March 15, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    I wanna go deeper into the underworld.

  21. FallenEco
    March 15, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Living who threaten the lands of the Dead? Sounds like Abmortals to me.

    Tell me more.

  22. SunlessNick
    March 15, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Well, it looks like Underworld is winning. 🙂

    I can’t choose.

    A large enough number of Reapers could destroy an entire civilization this way, Descending cities and letting the aftereffect do its work. Whether this has ever actually happened is hotly debated among Sin-Eater historians.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that you could start a few fights by yelling “Irem” into one of these debates?

    • Second Chances
      March 15, 2018 at 11:55 pm

      I’ve heard worse ideas.

      • SunlessNick
        March 17, 2018 at 12:26 pm

        Worst than connecting Irem’s disappearance to the Reapers, or worse than starting a fight among debating sineaters? 🙂

  23. WuseMajor
    March 16, 2018 at 1:16 am

    Very interesting. I hope you can maybe get some crossover notes into a supplement or something.

    Anyway, Let us continue further down. Underworld please.

  24. Nathan Henderson
    March 16, 2018 at 1:22 am


  25. False Epiphany
    March 16, 2018 at 2:38 am

    Let’s delve deeper, please!

  26. Robert D
    March 16, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Great post! Tough Choice! Both are things I want to hear about…but as we are on the antagonist train, I’d like to hear more about the living antagonists, now that we’ve heard about the unliving ones.

  27. Robert D
    March 16, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I hope you and your family feel better Travis!

  28. SunlessNick
    March 16, 2018 at 10:47 am

    This part – “temple that wasn’t there yesterday and won’t be there again tomorrow” – interests me, as one aspect of the Underworld in the first edition was that it was static. Is that changing, or are these temples a special case?

  29. Baboonking
    March 16, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    The Underworld please.
    Let’s see what is down there.

  30. wyrdhamster
    March 16, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Let’s see Underworld now!

  31. Beige Gecko
    March 17, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    The living who are a threat

  32. Noneofyourbusiness
    March 19, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    The Underworld, please. I’m here for the Chthonic, Neverborn stuff.

  33. March 25, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    I think I want to hear about the living who threaten the Underworld.

  34. Draca
    March 26, 2018 at 4:18 am

    I Vote to go deeper and deeper, to the Underworld we go!

Comments are closed.